Last updated: 06-Nov-18
By Alice Morrison
It is that time of year again when we look back fondly at the year that has gone by and start to think of the year ahead. 2017 has been a big year in ultra running. There have been world firsts, heroic failures, magnificent successes and all the drama and excitement of a year on the trails. Here are some of the best bits.
It’s the worst month of the year weather-wise, so of course it is the perfect time to run a brutal ultra. January means The Spine. The MONTANE® Spine® Race 2017 gave us another epic edition of this 268-mile non-stop monster which follows the entire Pennine Way.
The men’s honours were taken by British runner, Tom Hollins, who battled through to achieve his goal of a sub-100 hour finish.
RunUltra’s coach, Andy Mouncey, who was on the start line but was prevented from finishing through injury, gave us the lowdown. We asked him why it was so bad.
“Blame ‘Compound’ and ‘Cumulative,” he said. “There really is no margin for error. You make a bad call / ignore warning signs and because of C & C it will come back and bite you in the ass – even if that’s a few days down the line. You need to keep making smart decisions in crap weather, under exertion, on your own and sleep-deprived.
There ain’t much daylight – most of the view will be under the light of a head torch and it’s very remote. You are on your own for a very, very long time with very, very few checkpoints – self management and acting proactively is key”.
Female ultra running prowess was honoured by National Geographic when they named Nepalese trail runner, Mira Rai, National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year. She was the people’s choice and won the popular vote for her achievements.
Mira has an incredible story. She grew up in rural Nepal as the eldest of five children. She left school at 12 to help her family bring heavy bags of rice up and down the trails to market. At the age of 14 she joined a group of Maoist rebels and for two years was trained by them in running and karate. This formed the basis of her strength and endurance.
She eventually entered the Kathmandu West Valley Rim 50km race where she came first overall which launched her running career.
In one of the most heroic stories of the year, Romanian endurance runner Tibi Useriu won the 6633 Arctic Ultra for the second time in158.25, ahead of Roddy Riddle in second with 165.39. Tibi got frostbite in the extreme conditions and his frostbite became infected but he went against medical advice, carried on, finished and won the race.
The 6633 is known as one of the most difficult ultras in the world due to the extreme weather conditions. The race route begins at Eagle Plains (Yukon); the 120mile distance event ends at Fort McPherson (NWT) and the 350mile category ends at Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean, above the Arctic Circle.
From the freezing plains to the burning dunes. April is Marathon des Sables month. 2017 did not disappoint. The ever-popular Moroccan champion, Rachid El Morabity lifted the title and his little brother, Mohamed, came second.
The real surprise of the race was Thomas Evans from the UK. He put in a stonking performance to come in third. Elisabet Barnes ran beautifully and consistently to win the women’s race for the second time.
Rachid El Morabity 19:15:23, Morocco
Mohamed El Morabity 19:38:21, Morocco
Thomas Evans 19:49:33, Great Britain
Elisabet Barnes 23:16:12, Sweden
Nathalie Mauclair 23:36:40, France
Fernanda Maciel 24:44:59, Brazil
This month saw one of the greatest accomplishments of the year. Kilian Jornet summited Everest without fixed ropes or oxygen. In an absolutely astounding feat of endurance, he reached the summit of Everest (8,848 metres) at midnight of 21st to 22nd May (local time +5:45 GMT) in a single climb. It took him 26 hours.
He summited via the north face, which is the traditional route, beginning the challenge at Everest Base Camp Base near the ancient Rongbuk monastery (5,100m) on May 20th at 22h local time (+5:45 GMT). By 12h15 local time on May 22nd he was back at the Advanced Base Camp which lies at 6,500m. There he confirmed summiting Everest at midnight, 26 hours after beginning the ascent.
Then, just one week later, he did it again. HE DID IT AGAIN!
Would he or wouldn’t he? Jim Walmsley was the very hot favourite for the Western States 100 M Endurance Run Although he was being willed on by so many, in the end he dropped and it was Ryan Sandes who held on to his lead and won the race with a time of 16:19:38.
July, July, how we love you July. It is a smorgasbord of ultra yummies: 24 Hour World Championships, Badwater, Race to the Stones, Lakeland 100/50.. take your pick. For us, though, the story of the month was the Kenyan runner who outran two charging bears.
Moninda Marube was out on a training run in the woods near his home in Maine, USA, when he was faced with two charging black bears. He saved his life by sprinting to a nearby vacant house for cover. The bears were only 18 metres away from him and were catching him, the house was about the same distance in the other direction, so he made a dash for it. The bears closed on him and he said they would have caught him if the house had been much further. They were nine metres behind him when he reached cover. He said he learned an important lesson from his close encounter: “Just make peace with people. You never know when your day comes.”
It is not only the heroic wins we love, it is the heroic failures. Samir Singh had set himself the amazing challenge of running 100km a day for 100 days through the insanity of a Mumbai summer. He almost made it, but just 36km short of his goal, he had to stop. His injuries, fever and exhaustion had finally overcome him. A failure, but an incredible achievement of 9,964.19 kms in 100 days. That is nearly equivalent to a quarter of the world’s perimeter,
Ooohh, it was a sizzling September. The best UTMB line up in history had a stellar cast in both the men’s and women’s races: ultra running’s darling, Kilian Jornet; the French formidables François D’Haene and Xavier Thevenard; and the ultra-ambitious Americans Jim Walmsley, Zach Millar and Tim Tollefson. For the women: Caroline Chaverot, Andrea Huser, Nuria Picas and Magdalena Boulet were all fancied.
He led for most of the race, and after 19:01:32 hours on the mountain, François D’Haene crossed the line in Chamonix first, winning for the third time. He was followed just 15 minutes later by KilianJornet, and the young American, Tim Tollefson, came in third with 19:53:00.
Nuria Picas of Spain had a great race, fulfilling her potential. She crossed the finish line in 25:46:43. Andrea Huser powered in in second place with a time of 25:49:18. Christelle Bard of France came in third with 26:39:03.
Francois D’Haene broke the John Muir round record and Marvellous Mimi had to pull out of
her attempt to set a new Female Guinness World Record for running across America. Severe knee issues left her unable to carry on. The attempt was to complete the 2,850-mile journey from City Hall in Los Angeles to City Hall in New York in 53 days. She had to pull out after extreme pain made her seek an MRI scan which showed that due to previous meniscus tear surgery she had been left with no cartilage on the right side of her knee, and she also had serious bone oedemas and a high risk of stress fractures in the knee.
Then, at approximately 1:24 am on Sunday, November 5, Sandy Villines climbed the steps of New York City Hall, and broke the record. Her official finishing time of 54:16:24 broke the previous Guinness World Record by over two weeks.
The USA’s Camille Herron smashed the women’s 100-mile world record at the Tunnel Hill 100 miler in Illinois. She took more than an hour off Gina Slaby’s time, coming in at 12:42:39 for 100-miles.
Unbelievably it was her first 100-mile finish. She also won the race and shattered the course record. As a certified road race, her Tunnel Hill 100 time was officially recorded and ratified.
It’s early days yet…but we are hoping for something special to end the year with. Maybe Santa will run his first ultra?